I grew up on Kaua`i.

My two early pleasures--reading and thumb-sucking. We were living in that van, but Mom always knew how to make wherever we were look beautiful.

You probably don't appreciate what a statement that is, but Kauai is a place of extremes. Extreme beauty. Extreme isolation. Extreme weather. Extreme attitudes.

It's a very small place–when I was a kid, stable population of less than 35,000 and very few tourists. My parents were hippies, doing the dropout surfer lifestyle, and we were a part of the few rugged haoles (white people) who really embedded themselves in the community.

There was no TV. There was no internet. There were no phones. We moved a lot, within the small communities of the North Shore, back and forth from rentals to van to tents.

But there were books. And my college-educated parents read to us. I was an early and avid reader, and our weekly drive into Town (Kapa`a) with it's multiple pleasures of the Kapa`a Bakery, Laundromat, and Library were the highlight of our week. Nothing made me happier than sitting in the car outside the laundromat while our clothes washed, eating malasadas (Portuguese donuts) and reading a fresh book. (Oh hey, those are still some of my happiest moments–and having achieved a level of success that I can wash clothes at my own house is still something I appreciate!)

I read everything in the kid's side of the library by the time I was ten. I had to move to the adult and nonfiction side because a life without reading, on Kaua`i, was just not worth living. (Hence the early exposure to Jackie Collins referred to in my Avoiding the Turgid Pole post).

I have some theories about brain development, creativity and play… Because in hindsight, my freewheeling childhood, unsupervised a good deal of the time, running amok in nature, and reading for pleasure, was the perfect set-up for the lurid imaginings I engage in now as a writer.

I'm going back to Kaua`i next week. So excited. Only, it's been flooding.

How Hanalei Valley usually looks--and how it looks this week. (bottom photo by N. Teixeira)

I included Hanalei Valley's annual flood in Torch Ginger, the sequel to Blood Orchids. Without too much of a spoiler, Lei lives on the Hanalei River in one of the little taro shacks, and the flood washes up an important piece of evidence–a hand sawed off a body–on the beach, which she has to brave the flood to retrieve.

This scenario sounds very exotic. But people, this is Kaua`i. It's a place where strange things happen and are a new sort of norm. I'm looking forward to my vacation next week–in a cottage on the Hanalei River. And I really, really hope it's gone down by then and I don't come across any body parts.

Even drowned pigs are pretty unpleasant.

How have the places you grew up in influenced your pleasures in life, and your choices?


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